Shoring Up

The rudiments of my home base here in Milwaukee are in place, and I’m beginning the process of formalizing and reinforcing the framework of what I’ve built up till this point.

I’m substantially less-familiar with this stage of moving someplace new than I am with the other iterative steps between “arrival” and “feeling comfortable in a new home.”

When you travel frequently, with a monthly rather than multi-year cadence, you tend to establish yourself within extant infrastructural scaffoldings whenever possible: renting furnished apartments, for instance, and incorporating yourself into existing social groups.

I’ve found this to be an effective approach to getting set up in a new home, as it allows me to get a sense of what it means to live in an area relatively quickly: I’m a hermit crab shuffling shells, rather than an oyster building my own, completely new shell.

There’s an efficiency to this approach, and it’s necessary to be efficient if you only have, say, four months in a new location, in total. It can easily take that long or longer to settle in to an unfamiliar place if you’re trying to build something from scratch, rather than making fresh use of what’s already there.

If you can temporarily (but regularly) reshape yourself in small but intentional ways so that you fit within the context you hope to explore and learn about, you stand a better chance of making full use of the time you have available, rather than losing most or all of that time to travel-related frictions and attrition.

My intentions here and now, though, are somewhat different than usual in that I’m setting up a home base with the prospective aim of making it a more permanent thing: a place from which to travel and to which I can return after such travels.

As a consequence, I’m keen to not just experience what it is to live here, but to actually inform the shape this place takes; or at the very least to be in a position to do so.

That means not just setting up a metaphorical tent, but instead doing the planning and digging and cement-mixing required to pour a metaphorical foundation.

In practice, this means jumping through some legal hoops to make my professional activities locally legible. It means making the investments a non-transitory person might make—like buying furniture that I may keep for a long while, rather than giving it all away or selling it in a handful of months—and it means planting the seeds for local relationships of all shapes and sizes rather than investing primarily in those I suspect will be able to survive both time and distance, which is often necessary when you like someone, but also know you may be halfway around the world from them within a few months.

Because of my unfamiliarity with this aspect of moving, there are facets of it that I find uncomfortable; but there are just as many or more that I’m finding to be surprisingly enjoyable and satisfying.

I still reflexively favor things that I know will travel well, but I’m finding a lot of value in the process of refocusing some of my attention toward durability and continuity, alongside the growth-inducing challenge of blending these two sets of (seemingly oppositional) priorities, and the (to me) relatively unfamiliar enterprise of shoring up and stabilizing.

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